Psychological symptoms in family members after ICU deaths

January 01, 0001

Psychological symptoms in family members after ICU deaths

Family physicians often manage the psychological fallout among family members after a death in the ICU. These American authors sought to identifies characteristics associated with psychologic symptoms in family members in such circumastances. Families of patients who died in the ICU or shortly after discharge from the ICU that had previously participated in a separate randomized trial were assessed for symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression using follow-up surveys. Predictors examined included family member mental-health history, family member’s involvement in decision making, and demographics.

The researchers report: "Surveys were completed by 226 families. Response rate was 46% in the original randomized trial and 82% in this study. Prevalence of PTSD and depressive symptoms were 14.0% and 18.4%, respectively. Family characteristics associated with increased symptoms included: female gender, knowing the patient for a shorter duration, and discordance between family members’ preferences for decision making and their actual decision- making roles. Depressive symptoms were also associated with lower educational level. Families with psychologic symptoms were more likely to report that access to a counselor and information about spiritual services might have been helpful while the patient was in the ICU."

The researchers concluded: "Families demonstrated a high prevalence of psychologic symptoms after a death in the ICU. Characteristics associated with symptoms may help target interventions to reduce these symptoms."

This study lays some groundwork for understanding who is at risk of psychological symptoms, including depression and PTSD, following the death of a family member in the ICU.

For the full abstract, click here.

Chest 137(2): 280-287, February 2010
© 2010 by the American College of Chest Physicians
Predictors of Symptoms of Posttraumatic Stress and Depression in Family Members After Patient Death in the ICU. Cynthia J. Gries, Ruth A. Engelberg, Erin K. Kross, et al. Correspondence to J Randall Curtis: [email protected]

Category: P. Psychological. Keywords: pst traumatic stress disorder, PTSD, depression, family members, death, intensive care unit, ICU, survey, journal watch.
Synopsis edited by Dr Paul Schaefer, Toledo, Ohio. Posted on Global Family Doctor 30 March 2010

Pearls are an independent product of the Cochrane primary care group and are meant for educational use and not to guide clinical care.